NYT Documents U.S. Support for Egypt’s Torturer

The White House position on Egypt would seem to back the transfer of some level of official power to Omar Suleiman, who Hosni Mubarak recently named vice president. Suleiman’s former role as intelligence chief made him a key player in Egypt’s use of torture, against Egyptian citizens and in connection with CIA-backed rendition.

That part of the story hasn’t received enough media attention, but today the New York Times does a great job, splashing the story on the front page…. Sorry, that’s not right. It must be here somewhere.

Perhaps a stinging editorial denouncing torture… no, that’s not it.

OK, here we go.

It’s a letter to the editor from writer, lawyer and activist Marjorie Cohn.

To the Editor:

Re ‘West Backs Gradual Egyptian Transition’ and ‘Blood on the Nile‘ (Week in Review, Feb. 6):

The United States government, which sends $1.5 billion annually to Egypt, refuses to learn that supporting vicious dictators is counterproductive.

Washington is backing Vice President Omar Suleiman, who is fiercely loyal to President Hosni Mubarak, to lead the transition team. But the vast majority of Egyptians who have taken to the streets to demand Mr. Mubarak’s ouster would not likely accept a Suleiman-led government.

The former intelligence chief worked with the Central Intelligence Agency when it rendered terrorism suspects to Egypt for torture. As your reporters who were interrogated by Egypt’s secret police, Souad Mekhennet and Nicholas Kulish, vividly point out, torture is commonplace in Egyptian prisons. Mr. Suleiman is closely identified with the government’s longstanding policy of torture.

What happens next in Egypt is up to the people there, not the United States government. Until we stop backing tyrants and torturers, we and our allies will suffer the consequences.

Marjorie Cohn
San Diego, Feb. 6, 2011

The writer, a law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is editor of ‘The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse.’

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.